Friday, July 21, 2023

Tisha B'av Reminder in Congress

The United States Congress hosted President Isaac Herzog to deliver a special address to the House of Representatives and the Senate in a joint session. I was honored to be able to attend this historic occasion in person. It was a surreal moment to be in the citadel of American political power and a few feet away from the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. Together with most Members of Congress, there were nearly thirty standing ovations for Mr. Herzog. I got goosebumps as he declared, “Am Yisrael Chai,” the Members of Congress exploded in applause. I thought this was an outstanding speech that made many salient points. I was moved by the traditional approach to how he addressed the time of year on the Jewish calendar. This is an excerpt from his speech: In Jewish weddings, a glass is placed on the ground, intentionally stomped on. This ritual evokes the destruction of our temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Only after the glass is broken, can the celebration truly begin. Amidst the most joyous occasion in the lives of two individuals who have come together to build something whole, we recall what was once broken in our nation. Thus, the bitter blends with the sweet. Today, the Hebrew calendar points to the 1st day of the month of Av. In Jewish tradition this is a somber period in which we mourn the loss of our sovereignty. Jewish communities worldwide lament the beginning of our national exile, where we continuously expressed a spiritual connection to our ancestral Holy Land and a longing to return home and regain our independence throughout two millennia. Mr. Herzog underscored the deep connection that Jews have with Zion and Jerusalem. Our tradition teaches us that from the time of the destruction of the Temple (Beis Hamikdash) in Jerusalem, the era of G-d’s Hidden Face (Hester Panim) has intensified. Over the last two millennia, this phase has unfortunately deepened. The stage of Hester Panim has resulted in much confusion, pain, and unthinkable tragedies. As we prepare once again to observe our National Day of Mourning on Tisha B’av, it is worthwhile reflecting on what we are mourning. On a humid July morning at the historic Joint Session of Congress, we once again received a reminder. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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